INVOLVEMENT in the sex industry is still seen as taboo and with that taboo comes a danger of forgetting the people who work within the industry – who eventually become victims of their trade.
From young women going into sex salons to work or exotic dancing to pay off student loans or women who need to resort to prostitution to fund their drug habits, turning a blind eye to their situation can lead to serious consequences.
Prostitution, paying someone for sex, is not regulated in the United Kingdom and is still legal but activities involved around prostitution are illegal; including organised sex activities such as pimping and running a brothel.
Times are beginning to change, last year members of the Scottish Parliament attempted to bring in a law making prostitution illegal in Scotland, but would this help sex industry workers?
Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, proposed the Purchase of Sex Bill to Parliament but it was quickly rejected by Holyrood, but this raises the issue on how we can keep sex workers safe if prostitution were to become illegal.
Becoming a prostitute, working as an escort or in a brothel can not be seen as a welcoming career choice for many.
The dangers when working on the streets is rife for sex workers.
Violence is expected with every turn with the Against Violence and Abuse Project (AVA) stating on their website that “68% of women in prostitution will experience violence”.
Many women who fall into this life have had troubled pasts and require support to get out of the sex industry or even support on how to care for themselves working.
The legality of prostitution makes there a sense of acceptance that some women work the streets – most times as their last option – and are protected by the law for their work.
Since joining the European Convention of Human Rights Act in 1949 the UK made a promise to ensure that every member of the State’s basic human rights were being upheld.
This includes those who work in the sex industry.
Even though prostitution is legal in the UK there is still taboo which leads to more danger for sex workers.
How do they know that if they become a victim of violence or rape they will not be judged by authorities?
SlutWalk is an organisation who work, unfunded, to help women who are victimised for being raped; as well as supporting the legality of sex workers.
The first SlutWalk march took place in April 2011, Toronto, Canada to show unity towards the victims of rape and the workers and former workers of the sex industry.
SlutWalk London 2012 ensure that their walks highlight that women who are raped are not at fault, no matter what situation it happened in, and ensure that sex workers feel safe and have the same opportunities as every other person.
A member of SlutWalk London, Anastasia Richardson, described what the criminalisation of prostitution would mean for sex workers:“Criminalisation is the single biggest obstacle to sex workers staying safe from rape. Sex workers don’t report rapists because they know that since they are criminalised by the law, the police will pursue them for prostitution offences rather than pursuing their violent attackers.”
Working in the tabooed industry means that sex workers are constantly at risk due to the fact their attackers may never be prosecuted.
Anastasia continued “this means that rapists go free to rape again, knowing that the law fully condones their actions.
Rapists have actually told the police that they attacked sex workers because they didn’t think sex workers would report.”
If MSPs tried to pass a law to criminalise prostitution again how many women would be failed by the system and sent to, overfilled, prisons and be victims of violence but too afraid to speak up?
The AVA website states: “street prostitution is estimated to be ten times more dangerous than working from a house or flat“ and this is why safety for sex workers must be ensured; prostitutes must know that they can rely on the police and government to help them through and violent attacks.
Making prostitution illegal would mean many dangers for sex workers.
The risk of violence would be even greater, there would be less remorse towards people who were attacked and it would also mean working alone would become more dangerous for sex workers.
Anastasia concluded that “the criminalisation of clients would also make sex workers more vulnerable to rape, as sex workers wouldn’t be able to check if clients were dangerous or not as they would have to take the client straight away to stay secret. ”
The government needs to ensure vulnerable sex workers are kept safe and protected by authorities; despite their profession.
To make prostitution illegal in Scotland, and even the rest of the UK, the industry would become even more tabooed and hide vulnerable women, who’s lives are in danger, due to their potential ‘illegal behaviour’